Friday, September 21, 2007

A Naming Rights Crisis in Cleveland

There's a reason why the Cleveland Indians are having so hard a time finding a naming rights partner for their stadium that they need to hire an outside search firm: Most of the largest local companies (i.e. potential naming rights partners) have awful names or simply don't fit for some reason or another.

Don't believe me? Here's a list of the largest companies in Cleveland and an assessment of their suitability as a naming rights partner:

The Progressive Corporation: "Progressive Field" is probably the best of the bunch -- very New Dealy/WPA, no? Unfortunately, Progressive is known for offering quotes of its competitors along with its own quote. If you call the ticket office at Progressive Field, who's to say that they won't tell you that your entertainment dollar would be better spent that evening by going to see Portia Surreal at the Velvet Dog ?

National City Corporation: The name sounds banky and everything, but it's kind of oxymoronic when applied to a stadium, isn't it? That aside, given their recent troubles, they probably aren't about to splurge on a stadium name.

Eaton Corporation: They're big, they have money, they seem stable, and the name is generally inoffensive. Given the wide-ranging nature of their business, however -- the description of their core business consists of a 53-word, three semi-colon sentence -- they seem a bit above the whole naming-rights milieu. They're like a real world Extensive Enterprises, and if I'm a Tribe fan, the last two people I want to see in the owners' box are Xamot and Tomax.

The Sherwin-Williams Company: I use their paint, but the logo and slogan is a bit anachronistic. In this age of overly-sensitive plaintiff's lawyers and environmentalists, they may be better advised to simply say "cover your wall" or something. Then again, that may interrupt a longstanding project.

Keycorp: As the single largest client of Shyster's law firm, allow me to say how perfect and utterly appropriate it would be for Key's gleaming name to appear on one of our nation's finest ballparks, and how much its sterling reputation would add to the glory of Indians baseball.

The Travelcenters Of America Foundation: They should buy the naming rights to the road games.

T&A Operating Corporation: If the people of Phoenix rejected "Pink Taco" for their new football stadium, I can't see a Midwestern, working-class city like Cleveburg getting cozy with T&A.

The Cleveland Clinic: It's all good until Sizemore, Hafner, and Sabathia wind up on the disabled list at the same time some year, at which point the jokes and puns will grow brutal in a hurry. While we're talking about the Cleveland Clinic, I'd like to note that about six or seven years ago, I went there with a close friend to visit his father who was in the ICU with heart trouble. After our visit but before heading home, we stopped in the lobby of the finest heart hospital in the world to get a quick bite to eat. The restaurant: McDonald's. Talk about synergy!

Nacco Industries, Inc.: I worry about the impact such a name would have on team chemistry. Nacco manufactures lift trucks, mines coal, and makes toasters. These things don't seem to go together, do they?

Officemax North America, Inc: "Tonight, the Indians take on the Tigers AT THE MAX!!!" OK, I kind of like this one.

Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc.: According to their website, AIT has seven "core values" as a corporation: Honesty, Integrity, Caring/Fairness (that's two, but we'll let that slide), Openness, Quality Dedication, Promise Keeping, and Personal Mastery. Look, that may be great and all, but if they're really committed to all of those admirable things, they can't possibly be making any money. Naming rights are expensive, and are thus only affordable to amoral companies thirsting for cash above all else. Sorry, AIT.

American Greetings Corporation: It sounds friendly and welcoming, and their cards are quite nice, but my sense is that the hardcore sports fan isn't going to get behind the idea of American Greetings Stadium, any more than he'd get behind the idea of striking a deal with the 1-800-Flowers people.

Ferro Corporation: "Ferro Field" has a nice ring to it, but this is like the fifth one of these companies that break the Lloyd Dobler rule -- they buy, sell, and process a lot of things that are processed, sold, and bought -- yet never by individual people. Spending money on naming rights for this kind of company will have exactly the same effect on consumers as those BASF commercials several years ago. Even if they make the things I use better, they don't make anything that I use, and I can no more easily drive to Target and purchase a box of Ferro as I can buy a gross of BASFs. If I was a shareholder of one of these companies and I heard they spent millions on naming rights, I'd probably consider a lawsuit.

So, pretty slim pickings in Cleveland. Seems like nothing could work. In that case, how about this, Larry Dolan: permanently retire the offensive and degrading Chief Wahoo, partner with a real Indian tribe (of the non-casino owning variety) and give the place a name that celebrates and honors Native American heritage. It may not make you any money, but it would be a wonderful thing to do, no?


Anonymous said...

cleveland clinic has been working on getting rid of mcdonalds. theyve taken a ton of steps to make it a healthier place: going smokefree, eliminating transfats, etc.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Thanks for the info! That's really good news. If you're affiliated with Cleveland Clinic, please know that I have nothing but the utmost admiration for the work you do. I've had several friends and family members whose lives were literally saved by the Cleveland Clinic.

Unknown said...

Office Max is based out of Naperville, Illinois (A western suburb of Chicago)

Craig Calcaterra said...

You're right, Steven. The used to have a retail headquarters (as opposed to general corporate headquarters) in Shaker Heights, OH (suburb of Cleveland) but consolidated it all in Naperville a couple of years ago. I must have missed that somehow.

Anonymous said...

Check out this funny take on the subject: